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5 Things To Watch vs. Chiefs

What does the injection of young players look like? Kelechi Osemele’s second showing. QB situation.

Injection Of Young Talent
Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear at the start of the week that the Ravens will get more young players on the field during the final three games. Harbaugh said that “next year’s season has already begun,” and the Ravens want to get a jump on developing young prospects who they think could grow into difference makers for them. The Ravens started that process by promoting cornerback Jumal Rolle from the practice squad, and they will likely get rookie cornerbackTray Walker on field for the first time in three weeks. Young players like defensive linemenBrent Urban, Carl Davis and Kapron Lewis-Moore could also see a bigger role. There is always uncertainty when young players first get on the field, but the Ravens are optimistic about what they can do.

Osemele Continues At Left Tackle
Kelechi Osemele doesn’t fall into the category of “young players,” but he is auditioning the next few weeks. Osemele started his first NFL game at left tackle last Sunday, and the Ravens plan to keep the fourth-year player at that spot the rest of the season. Getting Osemele outside gives the Ravens a chance to see if left tackle could be a long-term position for him. The future of that position is up in the air because of Eugene Monroe‘s injury history the last two years, and Osemele said he likes the idea of playing left tackle like he did in college. Osemele is in the final year of his rookie contract, and the best chance to re-sign him would likely be as the protector of the quarterback’s blindside. He’ll get a good test this week against a Kansas City front that ranks fourth in the NFL with 39 sacks on the year.

What Happens At Quarterback?
The quarterback situation is up in the air for the second straight week. Matt Schaub missed last week’s game with a chest injury, and his practice reps have been limited as he continues to deal with all the hits he took in the Week 13 loss to Miami. Jimmy Clausen started in Schaub’s place against Seattle and finished with 274 passing yards and an interception. The Ravens will go back to Clausen if they think that Schaub is still feeling the effects of the injury. Recently-signed quarterback Ryan Mallett is also in the mix after getting picked up on Tuesday, but it’s unlikely the Ravens would start him less than a week after adding him to the roster. Whoever gets the start, the Ravens need him to take good care of the football against a Chiefs team that has 18 interceptions on the season.

Cleaning Up Secondary Issues
The secondary has struggled throughout this season, and the Ravens have the 21st-ranked pass defense in the NFL. The group was exposed last week by Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who threw for five touchdown passes. They had missed assignments and blown coverages, and the group has talked about the importance of cleaning up those issues. Head Coach John Harbaugh and Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said they plan to do a better job of putting their defensive backs in the best positions to succeed, and they have a chance to do that against Kansas City.

How Ravens Bounce Back From Blowout
Last week’s game against the Seahawks was the most lopsided result of the season. Every game up to that point had been decided by one score or less, but that trend ended in disappointing fashion with the 35-6 loss to Seattle. The question now is how the Ravens bounce back from their first blowout loss of the season. They know the playoffs are officially out of the question at this point, but players throughout the locker room emphasized they are still focused on finishing the season strong. “They’re going to look to see who’s going to try to quit at this point, and you don’t ever want to be that guy,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “These games are important for the simple fact that we want to win. We have pride, and nobody wants to go out this way.”



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